message for Earth Day 2011

Today I am expecting magic, and because of that I know something miraculous will happen.  This is how I want to begin all of my days.  No matter where I may find myself, working in any way, in any place, I want to see the magic.  As April 22nd, Earth Day 2011 draws near I wanted to write a love letter to the earth in the form of visual poetry and so of course I was thinking of what imagery I would also give. 

 

In our world of social connectivity, responsibility and all, we are more than ever becoming aware of many of the shortcomings we as humans have injected onto ourselves, and the earth.  If you are like me, at times it can be difficult to justify the not so pretty parts with the beauty, or perhaps because of them, it is even more important to acknowledge them.

 

Recently I watched a documentary about the work Brazilian artist/photographer Vik Muniz did in Rio de Janeiro with the people working and living near the world’s largest landfill.  Wasteland” chronicles a 3-year period of time where Vik works with the “pickers” making art.  The chord of the doc that resonated with me begged the question, “are we doing the right thing by going into the lives of some of the people of this community, showing them something different and then just leaving? Is this a positive impact or are we harming them?” 

 

Posing the question to himself, Vik reconciled that if he was given the choice to experience something beautiful, or amazing, something out of the ordinary, and yet for only a short period of time, would he choose to do it despite the fact that he would return to the same set of circumstances afterwards?  He answered with “yes” my friends, yes because that experience would change him and who knows what he would do after that.  Yes is a good answer, it is possibility, transformation and all that it is meant to be.

 

When I first began my journey as a humanitarian/documentary photographer, I often wondered the same thing.  Should I/we be rolling into these lives, making connections, asking for them to give to me their stories, their faces for photos, and then just leaving?  What am I doing here?  Somewhere deep within I had a sense that I was doing something positive; that a simple connection, even a small positive experience does make change.   One woman that I spent an amazing few hours with, walking around her village, meeting her family, children, inlaws, nieces and nephews, I found myself inspired by her.  She walked sometimes for 15 km to access water.  Her husband’s siblings had left the world due to HIV leaving her with the responsibility of more children to look after. She was an example to her village, she was positive and looked for solutions towards a better life.  When it was time to leave we both felt a tug.  She asked me if I would remember her, Christine Jefwa, I will never forget you.

 

Our answer is in the earth herself.  Small things can make great changes.  Drops of water alter everything, small movements can make sweeping changes, and yes there is beauty and magic everywhere, it just depends how you look at it.

Happy Earth Day, if you too see the magic and beauty, take the opportunity to give to an org, a not for profit or charity that is working to make change.  It doesn't matter how much you give, how small a donation, it is the act, the intention, and the change it will create in you and in the world. 

Some organizations I support:

Project X Impact my heartbeat, I am currently working to bring awareness to FGM and other issues in Kenya with Sol Garcia of Project X

SOIL – Sasha Kramer is doing phenomenal work in Haiti, transforming waste into magic!

CAWST – bringing change through access to clean water internationally with the bio-sand filter

Blood Water Mission – another amazing organization doing work with HIV and water

CSDW working with Dr Greg Algood and the CSDW team was an amazing experience, Children's Safe Drinking Water is so much more than the name implies!

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